Organic Sells Out to Mega Corporations

June 21, 2017

Because of the organic boom, specifically in the last few years, many mega corporations have moved to acquire smaller companies that promise organic products. After all, if “organic” is the buzz word that millions of people are buying into, it’s only natural that these guys want their share of the profit pie too. Dozens of supposedly organic companies fall under the umbrella of these mega corporations. Here are a few examples, see if you recognize any of them:

Organic Sells Out


Organic Sells Out to Mega Corporations

You know organic is better, or at least it should be, right?

The more we learn about how chemically laden most of our food and everyday products are, the more we’re driven to shop and choose organic. For people who have some background or have even done research on organic products, we know the major differences between organic food and products and those that aren’t.

However, what if I were to tell you over 80% of organic companies are actually owned by mega corporations. Wouldn’t that piece of news shock you? It might, especially if you thought you were supporting independent organic companies with your purchasing dollars. What could that mean for us consumers and our choice to eat and buy organic?

What does organic really mean?

Organic products are said to be produced using methods that do not involve synthetic inputs. These can be anything from pesticides to chemical fertilizers, which we know are incredibly harmful. Not only that, anything organic is supposed to contain no GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms).

Also, organic items aren’t processed using irradiation (exposure to radiation), industrial solvents and chemical food additives. Despite the higher price range, these dangerous additives are the very reason we choose to buy organic- to stay away from the harmful chemicals and consume only the freshest, healthiest, and overall best foods available.

The Truth About Many Organic Companies – Who Owns Who?

Some more examples:

  1. The Honest Tea Company is actually owned by Coca-Cola.
  2. Tom’s of Maine, a line of organic toiletries is actually under the Colgate company.
  3. Burt’s Bees, another company known for organic bath and beauty products were once independent, but today, they’re part of the Clorox Company.
  4. Aveeno is another organic and all natural skincare brand, but they belong to Johnson and Johnson
  5. Proctor and Gamble has just gained ownership of New Chapter, a brand that sells natural nutritional supplements.
  6. The Body Shop, another skincare and beauty line is actually owned by L’Oreal
  7. Lastly, Aveda and Origins fall under the Estee Lauder giant.

Not only are these mega giant companies eating up smaller organic companies, but some brands have been busy coming up with organic versions of their own companies. One example is Dove Organic, Dove’s organic line developed specifically for Wal-Mart.

What Do These Acquisitions Mean for Us Consumers?

The acquisitions of companies happen all the time, so you may be thinking, why should organic companies be excluded? A better question worth asking is, what does all of this buying up of organic companies mean to us? How will it affect consumers that wish to buy organic.

The Positives

This organic buyout may result in organic products being more readily available for the masses. Not too long ago, only a certain part of the population had the luxury to enjoy organic products from a certain company, due to it’s small and limited operations, today it’s a totally different story. With organic options being widely available, anyone in the country who wishes to begin an organic lifestyle can do so.

The Negatives

For starters, small businesses trying to sell their own organic items may be faced with so much competition that they end up closing shop. If not that, these mini corporations may be in danger of being bought out, something many independent organic processors have been resisting time and again.

The most important effect is the quality of our organic food and products. How are we to know for sure that these mega companies, who carelessly put in GMOs, chemicals and additives into most of their products will not do the same for their organic line?

These mega companies claim that their organic lines are environmentally safe and health conscious, but if they can be so careless and lenient about chemicals and additives, then who is making sure that they’re keeping to their promise?

Lastly, those that buy organic with the intent of supporting these smaller companies may be in for a disappointment, only to find out that the money they’re spending isn’t supporting an independent company, but actually going to mega companies!

Want to support REAL organic companies and businesses?

Here’s a few tips:

  1. Buy Local. Look for organic food products from local sources such as your farmer’s market. Steer clear from buying fruits, vegetables and produce from chain grocery stores.
  2. Start your search locally. Look for organic sellers in weekend fairs and markets, and be sure to ask them the right questions about their product.
  3. Check online. There are many independent organic companies who have taken to the internet to promote their businesses. Go online to find them, so you don’t have to resort to buying products from these mega companies if you don’t want to.



The Buyout Debate

Because of the pros and cons that have come with these organic company buyouts, consumers are split between thinking whether these buyouts are a good or bad thing. What’s your personal take on the matter?

Does the fact that these mega companies own these smaller organic companies make a difference to you? Will you still continue to buy organic?

Josh Axe

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  1. Leslie Strovas on

    It’s tricky. It’s nice to have more organic products available at affordable prices; that’s especially important for controlling food budget and still eating healthy. But these mega companies are just that – Mega, which is a concept inherently diametrically opposed with the principle of organic which embraces sustainability, local, and small among other values. I worry that supporting the mega companies by buying their organic products only enables them to further and advance their non-organic agendas which do not by any stretch of the imagination embrace health, sustainability or responsibility. I’d rather support my local farmer and other truly organic companies who haven’t sold out to the giant companies.

  2. Devin Carroll on

    If you want the world to go completely organic, that has to include the big companies, too. Why is it worse for a big company to own organic lines than for the same company to own conventional lines? Organic is one issue, big vs. small is a separate issue.
    I think it is a good sign that large companies are trying organic.

    • Stasia on

      The reason why it’s bad for these bigger companies to own the smaller organic companies is because they will start making compromises on the organic ingredients & substituting them with cheaper & less healthy alternatives. And because you already know & trust the brand or product, you may not even notice it. I have seen it first hand. I own an organic salon, am a hairstylist & research ALL of the products we use, to get the safest ingredients possible. I have seen companies, like L’Oreal, buy more natural companies & start to make the substitutions. I did not even notice it at first until I had clients commenting on products not working as well as they used to! Then I began to dig a little feeper. The interesting thing was/is, that do you think with cheaper ingredients that the price had gone down any?? NO! The other reason why it’s bad is because it’s incongruent. You either believe in organic or you don’t. I don’t have brands in my salon that are filled with cheap, toxic ingredients along with natural & healthy. We don’t offer color services with ammonia & PPD (etc) chemicals in them along with an organic, 89% natural color line…it just doesn’t make sense. In my opinion, theses big companies will eventually do what they do best…take these once healthy products & fill them with cheaper, more toxic ingredients. And because these ingredients are legally considered “safe” & “non-harmful”, and because these big companies don’t really get it, get organic & why it really matters, these organic products, that you once loved, will no longer be the same product or as good for you! They will be all packaged & misleading to look healthy as possible and you may not even notice. THAT is why it matters who owns what.

      • Kathy on

        Agree with Stasia above. Insidious and deceptive. Why are they not putting their company names on these products already then? It’s all about the $ and not concern for health.

        I’ll be going local as much as possible.

      • Deb on

        @ Stasia and Devin – that’s exactly what they will do and have already begun to do. I went to Trader Joes last week looking for Morningstar Vegan bacon, only to discover that now it contains egg whites. Had I not reread the ingredients, I would have assumed all was status quo.

      • Kim on

        Hey Stasia-
        Do you run a shop in the Nashville area? If not, would you mind telling me the names of the organic hair color/other products that you use? I can order from anywhere.
        Thanks- Kim

    • Stella on

      It’s a scam though Devin, they add perservatites and chemicals to to the food. it’s not like nature inteneded. Those big companies will do anything for money and they don’t care if people die, all they care about is profit.

      check out the books by kevin trudeau.

    • doretha on

      You need to read the article again because i’m afraid you missed the the very important points. mega corporations are not interested in the health of the world’s population nor the health of the planet. they are only interested in $$$ and will dilute an organic product with synthetic flavors, gmo’s etc, to enhance their company bottom line.

    • NB on

      It’s incredibly deceptive and I wholeheartedly agree with Stasia. These corporations are incredibly deceptive and try to hide their names as much as possible, or else people normally would not buy their products. The majority of consumers that buy organic want to avoid these factories, avoid the complicated processing of the foods, avoid those specific ingredients from those particular companies and avoid any chemical byproducts those companies may be notorious for having in their factories. I have worked in multiple food service jobs, including grocery stores, and it seems anymore that organic is just a marketing label to get influence the consumer into buying their product and the term organic is becoming wishy-washy anymore. For example, my customers literally get upset when they find out Kashi is owned by Kelloggs. They naturally don’t want to trust a huge corporation, but when they find this out, they become skeptical of all ingredients used in the product and then start looking up and asking how certain words are technically defined, or whether or not the company used GMOs, among other things. The leniency of how the term “organic” is defined is becoming more and more loose and it’s becoming less and less genuine. Having said that, the brand name of a product is possibly one of the single biggest influences of why customers buy a particular product over a store brand product. Selling recipes and patents has always been a part of marketing in the mega corporations. For example, some stores in my area bought the recipes and patents for Healthy One’s meat products, so now HO seems like they no longer carry these products when in reality, my store bought their recipe so we could make it ours and sell it, under our name, and they get a cut of profit for it. Or another simple example. At one job I worked at when I was in high school, my manager bought a BBQ sauce from a company in Chicago, but down here in my town, it was labeled as his own homemade secret sauce, and he could jack up the price of his food to make profit from it. The only people who knew his sauce wasn’t actually his recipe was himself and his employees. The issue with these corporations has always been their deceptive labeling and regulations, especially in the area’s of vocabulary and health code regulations. After spending the majority of my working life in the food industry so far, I can never bring myself to blindly trust their products and vocabulary.

  3. MC on

    Aren’t there certain regulatory requirements that companies must meet in order to hold their products out as “organic”? Or at least USDA approved organic? If the products continue to meet the USDA approved organic standard and thus are “organic”, then why does it matter if a big or small company owns them – aside from the good feeling we get when we buy local or from small companies?

    • Dr. Axe on

      Great Question MC. There is no doubt that the USDA Organic standard is a higher standard. However, companies are constantly getting in trouble for breaking standards. For example, the USDA Organic standard for Grass-fed beef means that cows must be fed grass 30% of the year, not 100%. And recently when the USDA went to check up on the farms they found that many of these farms weren’t following this standard so some companies had to stop printing grass-fed on their label.

      I think some of these bigger corporations have a greater chance of cutting these corners since they are already so careless about what they put in their products. But overall you are right and I personally do have more trust in things labeled organic.

      • Marc Avery on

        What concerns me about the whole issue is how certain people manage to “alter” the standards set up, usually by the government itself to fit their ever-changing agenda. For example, I can remember during the 60’s most terms used were pretty much, compared to today, well understood in their meanings; i.e. “gay” denoted happiness, joyfullness, etc. Freedom/liberty was known to not exist without personnal responsibility or accountability for one’s choices or actions, unlike today. The term “organic” wasn’t used as often because a lot of our food wasn’t contaminated, yet. I feel like “Morpheus” asking “Neo”: “What is real?” After what I’ve observed in the last 40-50 years, I can no longer trust what the government says regarding our food’s authenticity, but I truly look forward to “Kingdom to come”.

    • Ray on

      Also, to be considered, is the weight of these mega-corps AND THEIR MONEY in the pockets of our legislators. They will deceptively bring about changes in the requirements for the “organic” label right under our noses and we will be unaware. That is how we now have GMO’s swamping our grocery shelves. The people responsible for protecting our interests are much more interested in money and re- election.

  4. Rick on

    I like the general message that you put out. I have been eating clean for 2 years now on the paleo diet. I am all noit buying organic, grass- fed, wild caught, etc.

    The one detractor about what you have to say, dr axe, is that over the last 6 months I have watched you transition from a totally neutral blogger to what seems to be namelessly pumping your buddy Jordan rubins company every chance you get. And I’m sure that you are compensated monetarily for it. So for me, that becomes a bit disingenuous and it makes me now think twice before taking some of your advice as gospel.

    I know you have to pay the bills, and I’m sure Jordan rubins company has quality foods. Maybe it would make me feel better if whenever you posted about his company you also disclosed of to have any ownership in his company or if you are monetarily compensated in any way Vu beyond organic or any of his other lines.

    • Dr. Axe on

      Hi Rick,

      I understand that there are a lot of companies selling products today and it’s easy to get sick of people constantly selling something.

      Let me just say that I “only” promote the same products that I consume myself or have my family use. So when you see me talking about
      something you will probably see it in my fridge or my vitamin cabinet. Do I work with Beyond Organic yes. Do I also have their green-fed beef,
      raw cheese, dark chocolate, amasai, and water in my refrigerator right now, yes. Maybe I will do a video series of what’s in my refrigerator for
      a future article.

      The most common question I get is “Dr. Axe, what do you take?” So I try and answer this occasionally in my articles.

      So know that when someone buys a product off of the website or links to a product the team does benefit and it does keep
      us running the site. If not I would not be able to put out this information.

      At least you know with me I am not owned by Proctor and Gamble like New Chapter or I’m not owned by a pharmaceutical company like Dr. Oz.

      Back in 2005 when my mother was very sick I searched every brand possible and found Garden of Life to be the best brand because their
      products were raw, sprouted, and whole foods based. My mom changed her diet and started using the supplements and he health was

      So again, many products we promote on the site the DrAxe team will benefit financially but we will only recommend the very same products
      we personally consume.


      Dr. Axe

      • Dale on

        Although there is always the possibility that one benefiting from what they promote will be a conflict of interest, that is a matter of motive and the heart; and that is not our place to judge. There is nothing inherently wrong with profiting from what we promote. Sorry to spill over into the political here, but if fits perfectly: when we fall into that line of thinking, we are guilty of class envy and demonizing profit-making as many who are killing our country are guilty of doing. I was in sales for several years but I never worked for or promoted what I did not believe in. If I failed to believe in it or found out something about my product or company for which I sold that caused disbelief, I simply quit and found something I COULD believe in. The reason I am addressing this is because I see comments every now and then (and not infrequently) directed at Dr. Axe questioning his motives to promote something from which he makes a profit.

        Now to the real question: NOT is Dr. Axe profiting, but does he really believe in the products he promotes for legitimate reasons? I believe he does. I’ve found him to be completely up front and honest in all his dealings and true to the Christian faith which he professes. However, this is where each of us as consumers should take responsibility for ourselves. God gave us a brain with which to think and reason. Use it. We should ask our own questions, do our own research and be responsible for our own health and buying decisions. We don’t have to be sheep being led to the slaughter. Dr. Axe has always promoted consumer-responsible purchasing. The information is out there and readily available to all. Doing our homework will determine whether Dr. Axe is who he says he is.

        There is nothing wrong with profit. It’s the stuff business is made of and built around. Motives can be good or evil, depending on the one doing the producing and selling. But that is not for us to judge. Our judgement should be in regard to the actual legitimacy of the product. So let’s dispense with the notion that if someone makes a profit, that there must be something inherently wrong that they promote the product from which they make the profit.

      • Rick on

        Dale, spare me the sermon. If you read my post carefully, you will see that I am not attacking dr. axe or ANYONE for making a profit by serving people.

        I too am a sales person, and I only like selling services/products that I myself believe in. Unfortunately, many sales people do NOT subscribe to that notion, and will sell anything to make a buck.

        I simply said that it would make me feel better if dr. axe disclosed whether or not he has ownership or is is monetarily compensated by any of the companies, products, or brands that he promotes.

        Wall street analysts are regulated and now MUST disclose whether or not they or their firm has a vested interest in any stock that they are promoting or selling. And that is only for advice about money.

        What dr. axe advises us about is WAY WAY more important than money. He advises us about our health, and what we put into our bodies on a daily basis. Things that either promote or stave off horrible diseases. So I don’t think it is crazy to request full disclosure. That’s all.

        Dr. Axe, I appreciate the clarity. Thank you.

      • Cindy on

        Rick asked a valid question and I appreciate your answer, Dr Axe. Openness and honesty help tremendously.

        I have to say that it really helps me to know what you buy for yourself, Dr Axe. It saves so much time. With homeschooling, taking care of two children (one medically involved) and running a home, I don’t usually have all the time I would like to discover all this for myself.

        I really appreciate what you do. I actually had started coming to your practice at the end of last year and was getting my children lined up for chiropractic care in your office. But alas, we moved farther south and it is just not feasible now. But I can wholeheartedly vouch for any of you that Dr Axe makes his services so affordable so that as many people as possible can be helped by him.

        It is my opinion that Dr Axe is on a mission to help as many people as possible. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but that is my belief.

      • Melanie on

        Thank you Rick for addressing this obvious change. Thank you, Dr.Axe, for answering honestly. Many in my circle of friends have also been concerned about the direction of the site since the introduction of the Beyond Organic marketing campaign.

  5. Amanda on

    This is why I’ve been making almost everything myself. I source raw ingredients online and locally from trusted companies/farms. With some careful planning, anyone can do it. It is time-consuming, especially at first when you are learning but it becomes second nature after a couple of months. Baby steps though. Learn one thing well then expand.

    I don’t miss packaged foods and personal care products. In fact, I feel better than ever before after eliminating all the things I didn’t realize were poisoning me. It is worth the time and effort.

  6. Natalie L. on

    I am completely for buying from the smaller companies because I think they would be passionate about their products and invest more in them. I am on the path to try to buy everything organic! The way I look at it is that I would rather pay more for my food to get real whole foods and not have to spend the money on doctor bills now or later in life. Thanks for this post! I will definitely try to support smaller companies because I don’t want them all to disappear!

  7. Paul on

    Local doesn’t always mean chemical or pesticide free either. As far as “selling out,” I am happy that organic companies have had the opportunity to be so successful that they can sell their business. I am also glad items are more readily available to the public. On the documentary of Food, Inc, the head of Stonyfield seemed to think it was a good thing to get the product out to more people. According to the documentary, he sold his company and they still kept him in charge. I would like to think that cases like that would not change the quality of the product.

    However, before eating anything I think it is always smart to check the ingredients on the back….even if it is organic.

  8. Elizabeth on

    My understanding is that even organic COULD still be modified seeds? Right? Good advice here to go as local as possible. Thanks for letting us know these things, Dr. Axe!!

  9. peter on

    Kashi has already been shown to have GMOs in it’s products. Some health food stores have taken them off their shelves.

  10. Danny Mc? on

    Just because they are owned by a major corporation does not mean they are bad.

    With large companies buying these smaller companies the smaller company now has the resources and buying power of the larger company at their disposal to market and improve the brand.

    If “organic” is important to you then as a consumer it is your responsibility to do your homework and educate yourself on their processes and where they purchase their raw materials. As a consumer if you do not like the product then you have the power to spend your money with a competitor. If enough consumers exercise this power and provide feedback then the power of the consumer can affect change.

  11. Theolana on

    I usually try to ignore the comments directed at Dr. Axe when he recommends a product and others try to come at him because he recommends a certain companies product. That is a 2 edged sword. People are always asking you what you recommend and when you do, someone has something to say about it.
    I think that it would be hard to recommend something that you did not use already. Just because you have decided to invest in and recommend those products on your site, doesn’t mean that you have “sold out”. You are just wise to do what you do. You shouldn’t have to disclose how much money you have invested or any other nonsense. I have seen how you have had the chance to visit the Rubin’s farm and see for yourself how they do things. Jordan Rubin’s company has a history of putting out good products. You admitted that you have your involvement. Now you can continue on putting out life changing and useful information for the rest of us who are on this journey to healthy living.
    Thank you Dr. Axe for what you do and I will pray for you to continue to do what you do and do it with a spirit of excellence. I will also continue to recommend your site to others as well. Thanks for the info.

  12. Lori on

    Thanks Dr. Axe for the article. I have to admit I am torn also. I like knowing that more and more organic items are availble in general grocery stores, not just the high-end organic stores. Since I live on a fixed income and have chosen to continue to eat organic, in spite of my financial situation, being able to find coupons from the big brand companies for organic products helps me maintain an organic lifestyle. I do look for local produce and meat from area farmer’s markets, but still some of the better farmer’s markets with the largest organic selections are over 11/2 hours away from where I live. For example I live in North Alabama and yet if drive north to Franklin, TN there is a huge Farmer’s Market there that offers everything organic from milk, cheese, meat, veggies and even baked goods. But I cannot afford to drive every weekend to this location. Also I had a sneaky suspicion that Cascadian Farms had been bought out by Green Giant when both products had the exact same packaging inside the box and Green Giant was offering a non-organic version of the Cascadian Farms organic product. I hope and pray for the continued growth of the independent organic farmer and growth of local organic farmers to increase every year.

  13. Karon Wright on

    It makes a huge difference to me. I trust the smaller independent farmers alot more than I do the mega corp’s who are usually only in it for the money. I will always continue to buy organic but the best thing to do is grow it myself. Someone has to step in and make sure organic is truly organic. We need to get GMOs out of this country. I have a hard time believing the President of Monsanto has a clear conscious letting his grandchildren eat popcorn made from GMO seeds. I have to continue to believe God is in control and that “right and good” will prevail. With lots and lots of prayers.

  14. Janice on

    I agree with the comments by Leslie Strovas … good comments. I don’t like buying from the mega-corporations. These companies which are only concerned with making mega-bucks have played a large part in hurting the American economy. Small business is truly the backbone of America, but big business makes it impossible for small businesses to stay in business. It is vital that we all support our local farmers and local small businesses, thus strengthening our communities and increasing the availability of the products we need and want. Even better, grow your own and learn to freeze, can, store, and prepare your healthy food.

  15. Karen dawson on

    I think that corporations only care about making money and nothing about the care of humans ,animals or the environment. I feel they will try or succeed at getting away with whatever they can at whatever cost. “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior” Dr. Phil Mcgraw

  16. SHARON H on

    it almost sounds as if the big fish are trying to kill off the little fish. It’s scary. I love going to Nashville’s farmers market anyway, it’s great to get out and the produce is delicious. :)

  17. Pietas on

    The worst thing that is happening now is a Boycott on Eden’s organic launched by these satanic bastards who are in charge of certification trying to force them off the market. They have standards HIGHER than USDA so they are not USDA certified, and as a result are being assaulted by the feminist movement. These foolish people would rather buy beans from China than ones made in USA because the CEO is a Catholic and has traditional marriage views so refuses health insurance to cover their sex lives? Yup. .

  18. Andrew on

    Dr Axe. I have a question about Mary’s Gone crackers. Their labeled organic , gluten free, non-gmo and wheat free, but the box does say it contains “whole organic soybeans and soy and also “organic alcohol”. Is the soy in this product fermented and is the alcohol safe to consume as well. Would you eat Mary’s gone crackers?


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